Review: Reclaim Your Dreams

I first encountered Jonathan Mead of Illuminated Mind via his guest posts on Zen Habits. I am a regular reader of his contributions on that blog as well as his own, as I find him one of the more practical and to-the point personal development bloggers I’ve come across.

So, when Jonathan was looking for reviewers for his new e-book entitled “Reclaim Your Dreams: An Uncommon Guide to Living on Your Own Terms”  (link), I was more than happy to offer a review in exchange for a gratis copy of the e-book. That said, here we go!

What’s It About

I simply love the first page — it sets a high expectation for the rest of the book,  establishes the tone and gives you an insight into the content.

treatise

First Page from Reclaim Your Dreams

Unbrainwashing

The book itself is divided into two roughly equal sections. The first, a lengthy preamble entitled “Unbrainwashing: or Creating Room For Your Dreams to Grow”, presents an introduction to Mead’s philosophy.

In this section, he centres on the psychological side of personal development, inviting the reader to answer some tough questions: “Why do you live?” “Are [your thoughts] the type of thoughts you truly want?” and “Is this a decision that’s coming from my heart, or am I unnecessarily limiting myself in some way?”

For the most part, Mead avoids giving answers to the questions (from the outset, he acknowledges that what works for him may not work for everyone else. ). Instead, the writing stays on the higher, philosophical level, explaining a concept that will be familiar to many personal development readers: you are ultimately responsible for your thoughts, emotions and your happiness.

Manifestation

The second, meatier part of the book is entitled “Manifestation: or How to Make Your Dreams a Reality”. I was really excited about this section, as the first thing he discusses is how to solve the problem of not knowing what your dreams are. Mead then jumps into the most tangible exercise in the book. Writing, stream-of-consciousness-wise, the answer to these questions:

What does my heart desire? What do I really love with a passion? If money wasn’t an object, how would I spend the majority of my time? If I could have any career, regardless of my current experience and skills, what would I want to do?

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? This is a familiar exercise to anyone that’s spent time investigating personal development techniques.

But scanners, you’ll also recognize that answering these types of questions don’t do much for us. In fact, when I read those questions, my heart sunk a bit — I thought to myself “classic scanner trap.”

If you’re like me, you’ve tried answering those questions! But it’s impossible for a scanner to nail down any one thing that we “love with a passion”. In fact, we may love something with a passion for a few years, weeks or even just half an hour, never to love it again.

I won’t belabour the point; it’s just something I wanted my fellow scanners to be aware of, since the remainder of the section really pulls on the idea of “having a dream” and then making it reality. The emphasis on career choice is particularly sticky for scanners (for whom choosing a single career path can seem torturous!)

That being said, I did enjoy the section on getting past fear, a lesson that most of us need to learn at one point or another. Mostly, just be aware that while there are techniques that can be adapted to the scanner personality, it’s just not always immediately apparent how to do so.

 

Overall Thoughts

From the beginning, Mead makes it clear that this is a book with bold ideas, targetted to an audience focused on PD. At the same time, he’s aware of his responsibility as a writer, saying

It’s my hope that some of the things I’ve learned will work for you, as well. But most importantly, I don’t want to tell you what to do. That would go completely against everythign I’ve found to work in my life: listening to my own heart.

I think the book would have been stronger if the author had spent a bit more time actually telling us what to do. Not necessarily in the sense of giving us “all the answers” (no one can give all the answers when it comes to matters of the heart and mind), but in the sense of actually giving concrete ways and tools for listening to the heart.

Yes, there are exercises and “things to meditate on”, but I didn’t feel as though they were concrete or guided enough. Sometimes, I felt like saying “Jonathan, stop beating around the bush, and give us more tangibles and less philosophicals.” :-)

Not that this is unique Reclaim Your Dreams — it’s a trap that I find many, many PD books fall into.  This is just really unfortunate, since Mead’s blog posts are typically very grounded and very practical, and this felt like a departure from that formula.

That being said, I think that people who are either really new to personal development or really familiar with the techniques (who know what their dreams are and are experienced at listening to their hearts) would probably get more out of this book than I.

Those newer will find the concepts new, fresh and challenging. Those PD ‘gurus’ (I use the term lightly, of course!) will find Mead’s approach a twist on the familiar. But those who are familiar with the concepts but need more help with the concrete applications probably won’t get quite as much out of it.

PS. One bonus comment that has nothing to do with content, but because I’ve been doing a lot of work with typography lately, I wanted to comment on it. This book is beautifully laid out, with a smooth line for online reading. But! It is hard to read offline if you (like I) prefer to print things out. Just a small caveat to an otherwise nicely formatted book.

Weekly Reads: Idea Party Edition

Last Thursday, the twitterverse was abuzz (atwit? atweet?) with Barbara Sher’s marathon Idea Party.  For twelve straight hours, folks from around the world shared their wishes and obstacles, and received tonnes of suggestions in return.

Sometimes, it even went beyond suggestions and into the realm of action. For example, a tech writer with experience in resume writting was looking for work, and was paired with a jobseeker looking for a tech resume update.

If you want to revisit the madness of the IdeaParty, there’s a massive 250-page PDF of the conversation available — you’ll want to read it from bottom to top. Or, if you want to get in on the party, there will be another one this coming Thursday from noon until midnight (all times Eastern). Just keep an eye on the Twitter hash tag #ideaparty.

It’s all leading up to the massive March 24th Idea Party bash to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Barbara Sher’s Wishcraft: How to Get What You Really Want. It’s a fantastic book — if you haven’t already read it, you can do so for free online, or get a copy at your local library. You can also purchase the book through Amazon (note: that’s an affiliate link, so if you purchase the book via that link, I’ll get a very small cut).

If you’re curious about what exactly an Idea Party is, or how you can get involved, be sure to check out the free eBook that Barbara put together to explain the concept.

Also, if you’re a scanner, note that time is getting short for you to contribute to the first Scanner Blog Carnival. Details are in this post.


On an unrelated note, I’m still looking for more feedback on these Weekly Reads posts. Enter your vote below, and shape the future of Sententia. Wow… that sounded a lot more dramatic that I intended.

 

[polldaddy poll=”1439550″]

If you would like to pass on anything you think I might be interested in, post the link as a comment to this thread! I’m always looking for new things to explore. Note that comments containing multiple links are flagged for moderation, so if your note doesn’t show up right away, don’t worry!

Made Me Think

Don’t Try to Dodge the Recession with Grad School and Seven Reasons Why Graduate School is Outdated (from Penelope Trunk). It used to be common thought that if you lost your job and couldn’t get another one right away, the next natural step was to go back to school. While there certainly are some cases in which that’s still good advice, in classic Brazen Careerist style, Trunk gives loads of reasons to reconsider the grad school path.

How to Mitigate the Urgent to Focus on the Important (from Harvard Business Publishing). Repeat after me: urgent and important are not the same thing. Urgent and important are not the same thing. Got it? Good. Now, the question is how to actually get to the important without the urgent taking up all your time. Fortunately, Gina Trapani of Lifehacker fame has some tips. My favorite? Schedule a non-negotiable 20-minute meeting with yourself every week.

Steps Towards a More Sustainable Life of Less (from Zen Habits). I am becoming more and more aware of how much stuff is around me all the time. Not just physical stuff, but mental and emotional too. Sometimes, I’ll be watching a TV show that shows a “simpler life” (the real thing, not the Paris Hilton TV disaster) and find myself pining after that way of life. Fortunately, there are small steps that we can take to simplify our day-to-day, and this great article from Zen Habits is a good place to start.

For Your Reference

How to Make Butter (from Bay Area Bites). Ever since reading In Defense of Food, I’ve not been able to look at margarine the same way. If you’re an all butter, all the time type person too, you may want to check this article out. No churning needed, just some heavy cream and a mixer. As a nice side effect, you get buttermilk for baking with, too!

Wishcraft Online (by Barbara Sher). I mentioned it above, but it’s worth another mention. Wishcraft is one of the most influential books I think I’ve ever read. For 30 years, it’s been doing exactly what the subtitle promises: helping you get exactly what you want out of life. This isn’t just some feel-good, airy-fairy but ultimately unrealistic book, either. Sher tells it like it is, and makes you believe that dreams really can come true.

Review: The Renaissance Soul

Are you a W.A. Mozart or a Benjamin Franklin? In other words, do you like to dive deeply into one subject and give it all your attention, or are you more happy when you’re jumping from idea to idea?

That question is at the heart of Margaret Lobenstine’s The Renaissance Soul. And the subtitle of the book (Life Design for People with Too Many Passions to Pick Just One) is a good first clue if Lobenstine’s message will resonate with you.

Before getting too far into the review, it’s probably a good thing to set the stage. So (borrowing from the back cover):

Do you enjoy following a diverse and evolving set of interests? Do you get down on yourself for being a “jack of all trades and master of none”? Do you feel trapped by others’ expectations of you to stay in your current field forever? Do you feel envy when someone says, “I’ve always known exactly what I wanted to do with my life?”

That description sounds very much like me, and so this review will be written from that perspective. If that sounds like you, then this review will probably make sense; if it doesn’t, you may have a harder time understanding exactly where I’m coming from. Just as I can’t understand how you can be wired to know what you want to “do with your life”, you may not be able to understand that I (and other “Renaissance Souls” aren’t wired the same way).

But don’t let that stop you… let’s get on with the review itself.

What’s It About

As I suggested above, The Renaissance Soul is basically a guidebook for people who (like me, Benjamin Franklin, Leonardo DaVinci, and a host of others) have so many passions and interests that choosing just one feels constraining.

Those of you who are familiar with Barbara Sher’s work will recognize “Renaissance Soul” as a synonym with Sher’s term “Scanner” — and they are in fact the same thing. In fact, Lobenstine makes reference to Sher’s work in her resources section as well as in some of her content.

The Renaissance Soul content itself is divided into five sections, intended by the author to provide a whole view of career and life design planning for the self-proclaimed Renaissance Soul. Starting from identifying yourself as such a Soul (and learning that there really is nothing wrong with you) through to learning how to model this personality for others like you (so they don’t feel like there’s anything wrong with them), Soul’s map covers the whole spectrum.

What is a Renaissance Soul

Lobenstine starts with a description of what exactly it means to be a Renaissance Soul. In the section entitled “Claiming Your Renaissance Soul,” she gives lots of examples of Renaissance Souls — the situations we find ourmselves in, the dilemmas we face, and she does a very good job of acknowledging that people in all walks of life and in all situations can be Renaissance Souls.

Some of the examples may seem a bit unrealistic to attain in our own lives (Benjamin Franklin being the biggest example), but it’s reassuring to know that if you’re a Renaissance Soul, there’s nothing wrong with you. Lobenstine also carefully points out that just because you have a variety of interests doesn’t mean that you automatically are a “genious” or more intelligent than anyone else — it doesn’t exclude the possibility, but being one isn’t a requirement.

That’s a good point to make, as it’d be easy to otherwise look at the classic examples of Renaissance Soul-“ness” (DaVinci comes to mind) and feel as though the book wasn’t really speaking to you. But Lobenstine is very careful to keep the definition very broad and welcoming, and it works.

How Does a Renaissance Soul Live?

The bulk of The Renaissance Soul centers around life- and career- design for Souls. In particular, she spends a good deal of time talking about identifying your Focus Points — interests and overreaching patterns of interests that draw you in at the moment — and finding ways to integrate those focus points into your everyday life.

Lobenstine dedicates a chapter to what she calls the “J-O-B” — a way to connect your goals and focus points into a career which brings them into alignment. You may feel that it’s impossible to bring all of your varied interests under one roof, but Lobenstine mentions many different techniques (such as the “umbrella”, in which you have one “J-O-B” that encompasses many areas: being a writer that writes about everything from Ancient Greece to emerging technologies, for example)

If you’re younger — high school or college age — Lobenstine has specific tricks on picking colleges and programs that can foster the … er… “Spirit” of the Renaissance Soul; if you don’t want to go back to school, there’s suggestions for that route as well.

One of the best sections in The Renaissance Soul is a short piece in which Lobenstine talks about perfectionism — it seems that for many Souls, perfectionism goes hand-in-hand. She notes,

What do you do if you’re a perfectionist as well as a Renaissance Soul? I learned long ago that it’s impossible to talk perfectionists out of perfectionism. A far better strategy for adapting to roadblocks created by this character trait is to learn how to become a perfect perfectionist — someone who knows when a task demands 100 percent perfection, when it calls for 75 percent perfection or 50 percent perfection, and when 25 percent perfection will do.

Even before reading about Lobenstine’s formula, this is something that I had found myself naturally starting to do, and let me tell you — it does make a big difference. Simply looking at something and asking if 100% perfection really is necessary can save a lot of headache.

Overall Thoughts

For some people, the notion of being a “Renaissance Soul” is foreign — societally, it’s seen as a bad thing, and such “souls” are called jack-of-all-trades’ or dilettantes. Where Lobenstine’s book shines is in showing Renaissance Souls that it is possible for them to find a place in this world which is targetted to “Mozarts.” Especially if you are looking to make a career move, or are just starting out in the career world, Lobenstine’s book offers some strong suggestions.

That being said, it’s not for everyone. Clearly, non-Renaissance-Souls won’t get as much out of the book. Apart from that, though, not all Souls are created equal. We don’t all function the same way — and as such, because Lobenstine often only offers one or two solutions, the suggested plan of attack just won’t resonate with all Renaissance Souls. For those that it does resonate with, it will really resonate.

I found myself actually falling a bit more on the side of “didn’t resonate”, to be honest. To me, this was especially true in the distinction that Lobenstine makes between Career Design and Life Design. Although early on, she acknowledges that “Renaissance Soul coaching … is not limited to career planning. It is about life design as well,” I found that for me the book was a bit heavy on the career planning side of things.

I personally think of career planning as an extension of life planning, and Lobenstine’s book almost put it the other way around: life planning read as an extension of career planning. Not that either is right or wrong in approach; it’s just a different approach that I couldn’t quite wrap my head around.

Whatever the reason, the main points of the book just didn’t resonate with me (the “J-O-B” idea, the “Focus Points” description, etc.) — but at the same time, I recognize that the book does have huge ability to resonate with people. At times, I felt the book was a little thin on explanation, but I’m also acutely aware that it may just be that it just wasn’t suited to me; I’m not sure.

My Verdict

Ultimately, deciding whether this book is “for you” will rest on one major factor. If you struggle to know what to do with your life, simply because there are so many things you want to do, then give it a read. The writing is light and easy, and overall it’s a fairly quick read.

Personally, I felt as though Barbara Sher’s Refuse to Choose! was a better overall read (it resonated more, and just felt better organized and more clearly written) — but I know people who have had the exact opposite feeling on the subject

At the very worse, you’ll feel as I did: a good read, but not quite right for you. At best, you’ll have found a book that shows you how to truly give your Soul a voice.

Either way, if you feel that you have too many passions to pick just one, I recommend giving The Renaissance Soul a look.

Review: In Defense of Food

The next time you’re watching TV, watch how many commercials are for weight-loss products, prescription drugs intended to cure almost anything, and fancy cookware intended to reduce the amount of something-or-other in your diet. Not to mention all of the antibiotic this and good-for-you that.

The next time you’re in your local bookstore, go check out the health and diet section. Be prepared to be overwhelmed by the pure volume of books and then stop and look at the titles. In my experience, there is certainly no shortage of “help” on the diet front — much of it contradictory. Eat more of this, less of that, and don’t forget about your nutrients!

In some stores though, hiding in and among all of the fad-diet books, you will be able to find a significantly different book: In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, by Michael Pollan (256p., Penguin Press 2008). Why this one often gets shelved with the diet books, I’m not exactly sure, since a lot of pages are spent discussing the detriments of our nutrient-obsessed society. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

What’s It About

Pollan gives the whole book away even before the first chapter hits: the first paragraph of the introduction simply reads:

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Those same words even grace the cover of the book — a simple “manifesto” for how we ought to be eating. I don’t think anyone would find that proclamation particularly revolutionary, or really all that interesting. Given that those seven words pretty much sum up the entirety of the book’s content, you might almost be forgiven for thinking that the book was a little … well … boring.

Far from it.

In fact, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants” only really shows up in the latter third of the book; oh, to be sure, the general idea persists throughout, but in order for Pollan’s simple message to make sense, he first has to combat all of the ideas found in those other diet books on the shelf.

As a result, it’s perhaps better to discuss In Defense of Food in terms of its internal subdivisions; the book itself is roughly divided into three equal sections:

  • The Age of Nutritionism
  • The Western Diet and the Diseases of Civilization
  • Getting Over Nutritionism

The Age of Nutritionism

 (A.K.A. How did we get into such a confused mess about what to eat, and what not to eat? And how on earth did Potato Chips and Cookies get health-food claims stickered on them?!?)

I don’t think a simple overview can nearly do justice to all of the fascinating information Pollan has collected in The Age of Nutritionism. Providing a carefully researched (and referenced!) history of the swirling mess that is “nutritional guidance” is one thing — and Pollan provides masterfully — but delving into the murky political mess that has become food lobbies and nutrition science is quite another.

Fortunately for the reader, Pollan bridges the two with a fantastic conversational approach which not only makes the dry details interesting, but makes the whole matter entirely disgusting — and that’s a good thing.

In many ways, reading the history of nutritionism (that is, being concern with the health impacts of parts of foods rather than the whole foods themselves) is like a car wreck — you can’t believe what you’re reading, it feels just absolutely wrong on so many levels, you’ve been duped into believing lies because someone else was profiting and … you just can’t turn away. It’s that fascinating.

The Western Diet and the Diseases of Civilization

 (A.K.A. Are our health foods actually making us sicker?)

If The Age of Nutritionism is where Pollan uncovers the political agenda behind what we eat, The Western Diet and the Diseases of Civilization is where he takes on the scientific and research community.

From medical doctors to academics, and yes, even to nutritionists, Pollan’s investigation leads him next to the startling conclusion that all of our best intentions to eat healthier may actually be making us less well.

This section of the book begins with one of the most interesting bits of the whole book: the retelling of a 1982 study in which a group of Australian Aborigines with a host of health problems (including type 2 diabetes, obesity, etc.) spent 7 weeks living in the bush eating nothing but their culturally traditional cuisine. The result of the study was astonishing: in just 7 weeks, the health problems associated with type 2 diabetes had either disappeared completely or were greatly reduced.

Pollan uses this account as his jumping off point, from which he investigates the way in which the “Western Diet” (what most of us eat every day) has surely but slowly moved away from traditional diets — which, by the way, had us overall pretty healthy for many thousands of years.

Getting over Nutritionism

(A.K.A. Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.)

Ah, finally we get to it: the part of the book which can really be summed up simply by the “eater’s manifesto.” If the message hadn’t gotten through sufficiently in the first two sections of the book, this is where Pollan really spells it all out: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Of course, it’s not nearly so simple as that — and so the reader is presented with a list of “rules of thumb” for determining what we actually should eat. In some ways, this section reads quite differently from the first two. It seems a lot lighter on facts and research, and heavier on calls to “culture” and “tradition” — not bad things, by any means, but just a different approach than the rest of the book.

If you’re looking for a quick guide to “what to eat”, then you could do a lot worse than the Getting over Nutritionism section — and it’s probably this section that sees the book most often show up in the diet section of the bookstore. The tips are great and easy to follow; my only wish is that the “what” was a little more integrated with the  “how” from the first two sections.

Overall Thoughts and My Verdict

Does In Defense of Food have a touch of polemicism in it? Yes.  Is it a condemnation of modern science and a hearkening back to “better days”? Sure. But is it worth reading?

Yes. Yes. A million times, yes. And then lend it to anyone and everyone you know.

If you’re afraid by the publisher’s stated length of the book (256 pages), don’t be. Pollan’s experience as a journalist shows itself here, and the writing is light and fluid; he is passionate about his topic, and it shows. On top of that, a good 20% of the book is citations of reference materials, which can be a bit disappointing until you realize that it just demonstrates how thoroughly Pollan researched this book.

From what I understand, In Defense of Food is also a nice tie-in to Pollan’s other well-known food book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma. I haven’t read it, so I’ll refrain from commenting on that aspect of things; however, any concerns about the book not being able to stand on its own would certainly not be well-founded.

Personally, I found the first two sections of the book far more interesting and engaging, but the last section is certainly valuable insofar as it gives you practical “to-do” steps to take in your own life. If the first two sections are the “why”, then the third is the “how” — it wouldn’t make sense removed from the rest of the book, but at the same time doesn’t quite seem to fit.

But the best thing I can say for this book would be simply this: it changed the way I eat. After reading In Defense of Food, I spent much of my next umpteen trips to the grocery store marvelling at exactly how much of the things on the shelves just aren’t food. And while I still do enjoy a few non-food items now and then, I’m finding it actually is really rewarding to eat food, mostly plants, and not too much.

It’s just too bad that we need to be told something that should be so obvious.

Weekly Reads: Back to Work Edition

Alright — the New Year is upon us, which means it’s time to get back at it. Some of you probably have already been back at work for a day (or more), but my first day back will be Monday. I’m interested to see what kind of things will have piled up — a two week vacation normally would see quite a pile accumulate, but the school was closed for most of that time period so all bets are off.

On the plus side, having an extra few days off has helped me almost fend off this cold, as well as gave me a chance to catch up on a bunch of reading — as evidenced by the somewhat more lengthy list of links this week.

If you would like to pass on anything you think I might be interested in, post the link as a comment to this thread! I’m always looking for new things to explore. Note that comments on this site are moderated, especially if they contain links, so if it doesn’t show up right away, don’t worry!

Made Me Think

2009 Focus – Intimate Relationships and Polyamorous Relationship Q&A (from Personal Development for Smart People). If you’re afraid of a little controversy, don’t like thinking outside of social norms, or want everyone to live “normally”, you probably gave up on Steve Pavlina long ago. But if you haven’t already, there’s a lot of things in these two posts to get you thinking. Since the beginning of the New Year, Steve’s been spending some time on his blog explaining his next direction in personal growth: in the area of relationships. I know I’ll be watching and reading.

Bathtubs, Lightening Bolts, and the Myth of Writer’s Block (from Copyblogger). I think I’ve read about a thousand posts, articles and books about how to get past writer’s block (and other creative blocks) by “just doing it”. This is the first one that has gone so far as to call Writer’s Block a myth, though. And I think it’s an accurate description — if we say that we can “get past” writer’s block, we’re still acknowledging that it exists (and thereby giving it power over us). If you instead just get down to work instead of worrying about the block, you’d be much better off.

Why Mood Boards Matter (from Web Designer Depot). I have a confession to make. When I feel like turning my brain off and just watch some TV, one of the first places I’ll go is the design shows on HGTV. I’ve jealously seen how interior and exterior designers can pull together mood boards that just. look. fabulous. But the idea of using mood boards for other types of design (like websites)? This article was a “duh” moment for me — it’s a great idea, not only from the designer’s perspective but also from the clients’.

The Best of Get Rich Slowly (2008 Edition) (from Get Rich Slowly). Of all the year-end round-ups that I read, this one was my favorite. J.D. is one of my favorite bloggers — not only because he’s a great personal finance blogger, but because he always finds a way to tie it in to the bigger pictures. His annual round-up reflects that, and I highly recommend clicking through and reading his featured articles

Related Reading

Maybe it’s not so surprising, but there were a whole lot of posts on setting goals rather than resolutions for this New Year’s. I guess great minds do think alike! Here’s a link to some of the ones that I came across; I won’t give them each a whole lot of description since many of the ideas are repeated throughout. But each one brings a unique and slightly different perspective on the subject.

  1. What Will You Learn This Year? (from The Simple Dollar) — this is my favorite one of the lot. What a great approach!
  2. Why You Should Do New Year’s Resolutions All Year Round (but don’t call them that) (from Retire At 40)
  3. New Year’s Resolutions? Not Me! (from Early Retirement Extreme)
  4. How to Be Damned Serious About Your New Year’s Goals (from Rock Your Day)
  5. And of course, Never Set Another Resolution, Again and It’s Not About Self-Discipline: 10 Tips for Reaching Your Goals from yours truly

Also, related to my article on our frugal Christmas party, The Simple Dollar described how they frugally celebrated the New Year — more great ideas, and even a controversy about the ethics of BYOB which broke out in the comments!

Sententia’s Best Of 2008?

The last week it seems as though every website that I follow has had at least one post dedicated to their year in review (be it personal or site related). I debated writing a best-of for Sententia, but it feels a little goofy when you consider that I’ve only been actively writing since the beginning of December!

That being said, 2008 did leave me a lot to be grateful for, both on the site and off. So here’s some of my “best of 2008” moments, in case you care :-)

  • A new job in higher education where I have a chance to grow and learn, both professionally and personally. I work in a hugely supportive environment, with great co-workers, and I’ve already had a chance to take on leadership roles which have been both challenging and rewarding.
  • Learning a tonne. At home, if I had to identify the one area that I’ve learned most about this year, it would be about money and finances. I was always pretty good with money; I graduated two university degrees without debt, have always paid off my credit card every month, always spent less than I earned, and put money away. But this year, I pushed myself to learn about things like frugality, basic investing theory and most excitingly, financial independance. Careful planning allowed J and I to purchase our first home in August, while still making major contributions to our short- and long-term savings.  The two most valuable books I read on PF this year are the two classics: Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence: Revised and Updated for the 21st Century (I read the previous edition), and The Four Pillars of Investing: Lessons for Building a Winning Portfolio.
  • But even more importantly, I’ve had a chance to learn more about myself. This year, I learned to be comfortable being a scanner and embracing all of my wide interests. For example, I got to work on a marketing project, communications officer, lead designer, specialist, consultant and more; talk about perfect opportunity. Embracing my “scanner-ness” is also what led me back to Sententia…
  • And of course, most recently, the relaunch of Sententia has been pretty exciting. In the month since the official relaunch in early December, nearly 200 people have encountered the site and read some of my musings. Those numbers may not be huge in the world of blogging, but I’m not after huge numbers — all I care about is having a chance to share with you all. So with that in mind, here’s a quick highlight of my top 3 favorite posts of 2008:

How about you — what was your “best of 2008”?

Weekly Reads: Holiday Traditions Edition

For the first time in a few years, I decided to revive a Christmas tradition… getting sick for the holidays! I’m still feeling a bit under the weather, but I still want to share with you a few of the things that piqued my interest this weekend.

Speaking of traditions, I often wonder what exactly makes something a tradition. Is it merely the intention for something to become traditional (such as the “First Annual Such-And-Such”) even if it only happens once or twice, or is there a point in time when you’ve done it so often that it is made to be traditional. And if you take a break from the tradition — say, not doing it for a year or two (if it’s an annual tradition) — does it still count as a tradition if you “revive” it?

Yes, these are the things my mind ponders while the rest of my body is preoccupied with the activities of the immune system.

If you would like to pass on anything you think I might be interested in, post the link as a comment to this thread! I’m always looking for new things to explore. Note that comments on this site are moderated, especially if they contain links, so if it doesn’t show up right away, don’t worry!

New Year, New You?

New Year’s Resolution Workshop (from The Simple Dollar). After Christmas, many people start thinking about setting New Year’s Resolutions. With economics on everyone’s mind, Trent at The Simple Dollar has a five-part series queued up to examine some of the popular resolutions that people make with regards to money. Trent’s aim is to “evaluate some of the traps that people fall into with regards to that resolution, and come up with some real actions that can turn a challenging New Year’s resolution into a success.”

Living in Denial Isn’t Living (from Someday Syndrome). A lot of people have big plans for starting a new year “off right”. A big key to making change in your life, though, is to make sure that you are living in alignment with your own truth — there’s no point in trying to align your life with falsehoods, since all that will give you is a troubled path. Alex really hit the nail on the head in this article, and I loved this question; it’s something I think we can all benefit from mulling it over from time to time: “So, are you wasting time not recognizing something that’s true for you?”

Information, Knowledge and Wisdom (from Early Retirement Extreme). For the new year, would you rather be good at processing information, would you rather have lots of knowledge and be really smart, or would you rather have wisdom? Jacob makes a very good point about the relationship between these three — and makes a case for integrating the whole, rather than focusing only on one or two aspects.

Bonus Material: Worth Investigating

If you’re looking for a movie to watch during the cold winter nights and enjoyed movies like Apollo 13, I recommend giving Everest a viewing. This It may be a bit hard to get your hands on, especially if you’re outside of Canada, but if you can find it, I’d say go for it.

If you prefer the written word, Leo over at Zen Habits not only has a list of twenty non-fiction books he recommends (there are several I’ve read, and several more I want to read!) and he’s released a free e-book, Thriving on Less: Simplifying in a Tough Economy.

And finally, for the photoshoppers in the crowd… One of the projects my mom worked on during December was a photo album gift for her father’s 80th birthday celebration. While visiting for Christmas, I had a chance to look at the scrapbook, and it was great! We really are fortunate that we have so many great photos of many of our ancestors. But what if you only have photos that are badly worn — or worse, torn and ripped? Check out this tutorial from PSD Tuts on Professional Photograph Restoration Workflow.